Is streaming allowing us to find new genres?
With streaming claiming and remaining the key source of digesting music, it would be safe to assume that the way we discover our new favourite artists is completely changing. The days of buying physical copies of music continues to go through peaks and troughs, but still remains a shadow of it’s former self. This used to be the only real way of finding something new, having to buy it and try it after hearing a few times on the radio, you could never guarantee you would love everything the artist had to offer. However in the digital age it’s much easier to test the water before you buy into the records.
Finding new music before streaming.
Physical copies of records have to be bought, there’s much more investment going into it opposed to streaming. Before physically buying a record you may not know much about, the questions; Do I have enough money for it? What about if I don’t like it? Space! I’m running out of space and I don’t want to fill it with music I don’t like. So, you would often find yourself purchasing music you were familiar with, or music that had been recommended to you.
Of course there’s swapping and borrowing records. So you could be introduced to new material and pay nothing simply by trading with friends. But of course this is still limited. Your friends don’t own every record in the world, they may not have certain genres of music or the worst case scenario they may not buy records.
You then had the luxury of illegal downloads and torrents. This does open up the boundaries, you can download anything if it’s on there (and most of the time it was). However, there’s still an element of research which has to take place before downloading, if you’re going to wait 20 minutes for something to download, you wanna make sure it’s something half decent. So once again, there’s small roadblocks on truly diving into a genre, or finding your new favourite artists in the fear of it taking too long and eventually discovering you don’t like it. Also, there’s the storage, you can’t download everything you’d want to because you may not have the storage for it.
Streaming to find.
So what makes streaming so good for finding new acts? Literally because it takes out those roadblocks above. With streaming there’s no real investment apart from the £10-£15 month fee. So you can test and try artists until your hearts content, and you find your next true love or monthly fad. This also eliminates the journey of record swapping, so you’re no longer limited to your friends collection. You pretty much have the worlds library to discover, and you never have to worry about losing it because it’s always there!
Storage? Not a problem of course, it’s all streaming. No more crammed shelves of records you never really got into, or several USB’s/Pirate CD’s dashed around your bedroom or car. It’s all in once place, taking up no space. If you don’t like it, turn it off, try another track, unfollow the artist or if you’re feeling extreme block them. So, you don’t have to continue to store it, or have a trip to the shops to return/trade it in, by a click of a button you never have to listen to them again.
With all of this in place, it allows people to try and test new music they never thought they’d give a go. Discovering new genre and artists they may never have got the chance to because it was never available or they didn’t think it was worth the money and take the risk to see if they’d enjoy it.
I for one can say for sure that if it wasn’t for streaming music there’s tons of artists I may not have gotten into, and there’s big names in there. For instance Kendrick Lamar, I’ve never majorly been into hip hop but when his new album is sitting there, ready to try for whenever you have to give it a go. From that, I was able to listen to his whole back catalogue and I was lucky enough to see him perform live, and it certainly all stemmed from me being able to try his music for ‘free’.
Is the journey ruined?
However, with all of this I do think the journey of finding your favourite band or artist has been tainted slightly. The months worth of discovery going into finding that one song, buying something out the bargain bin you eventually fell in love with, or that album your mate dropped round your house which went on to become your favourite band. Those stories are perhaps few and far between now.
Yeah, you can still discover great music by word of mouth or stumbling on a playlist, but it’s all done through a device where the romance is somewhat lost because the journey is tame. Saying this, I’m an avid streamer of music and have found countless artists through streaming, and probably will continue to do so. Which I suppose is one of the most important things, regardless to whichever method is taken when find new new music.
Spotify, Apple and Amazon music however could make finding new music far more easier. With labels having a lot of money to push their artists in front of your face, new music can be forced on you without you really knowing, making the playing field quite uneven. But, you can still find good music behind all the algorithm chosen playlists and banners, it just takes a bit of navigating – which I suppose is a journey in itself.
Although there are many wrongs to be made right regarding streaming and how artists are paid, it’s clearly going to be the most popular media for consuming music. While this median remains king, I feel that it will continue to drive music listeners to dive into new genres and develop wider palettes of musical tastes. Or you can just keep listening to your favourite artists over and over again, that’s fine too!
This doesn’t have to be the end of buying physical music, if you enjoy it lot and you REALLY want to support the artist – but the record, give them your money and tweet how much you love them.
Editor of Words For Music. Love music and support each other.